Until Stephanie Davis opened for Garth Brooks on his current tour, the biggest crowd she had ever played to was a room of 100 fellow songwriters. Now she’s living a first-time performer’s nightmare scenario: walking out each night to face 26,000 crazed Garth fans. ”I thought people would throw things,” says Davis, who routinely receives standing ovations instead.
But what’s a few tomatoes when you’ve faced death? In a series of odd jobs, the 6-foot-1-inch Davis, 35, has fought fires and cleared trails for the Forest Service and worked as a cook in the Alaskan oil fields. There, in 70-below-zero temperatures, she tied a rope around her waist to keep from getting lost in the whiteouts and tried to forget that her predecessor was eaten by a polar bear while taking out the garbage.
Brooks met Davis in less life-threatening surroundings — at a writers’ night in a Nashville club in 1987. He eventually recorded four of her songs (”Wolves,” ”The Gift,” ”Learning to Live Again,” ”We Shall Be Free”) and asked her to tour with him even before she had a contract for her first record, the just-released Stephanie Davis. Brooks was attracted to Davis’ economic songwriting style, which she attributes to a journalism degree, and to the sense of innocence that fills her songs. Davis credits the latter to growing up in isolated Bridger, Mont., population 692. ”I never even drove a four-lane road until I was 18,” says Davis, whose rancher family was far removed from any live music: When Brooks handed Davis’ father a pair of ear plugs at a recent show, he thought they were marshmallows and ate one of them. ”I’m still pretty much aghast at the world,” Davis says. ”Maybe that’s a good thing for a songwriter. I see things a little differently than everyone else.”